When I was asked to give SICMaN of Virginia’s new album, Mourning Sicness, a listen, I honestly had no idea how to approach it, because: A) I normally don’t do straight up reviews, and B) because a friend described them to me as, "Jam bandish, but with other stuff too."
All I heard was jam band.
When I hear the term jam band, I think of loooong songs with lengthy, free form musical breaks—on acid… Music that creates the perfect backdrop for groovy activities like frisbee, hacky sack or spinning while blowing bubbles—barefoot. Although I do love a good game of frisbee, and bubbles are never a bad thing, I’ve never been able to listen to that particular genre for extended periods of time. This is partially due to my gnat-like attention span, as well as my lack of overall grooviness. Also, I look terrible in tie-dye.
While getting ready to listen to Mourning Sicness, I wondered if it was going to become another one of those "bride’s maid dresses” in my music collection. You listen to it once, and only once, then into a closet or hard drive it goes. Every now and then, you’ll look at this pile of music and find yourself a little resentful that it’s taking up valuable real estate. But much like the dress worn once, you just can’t just get rid of it. What if you might need it someday?
After giving Mourning Sicness a go, I'm happy to report that this is no bride’s maid dress. And, that SICMaN of Virginia is waaaaay more than a jam band.
The first song, "Charles From The Raven”—one of the four songs where Dave Drewitz, from Ween, gives them a hand on bass—completely took me by surprise. It shot out of my speakers with a late 60’s or early 70’s heavy rock vibe. Think Detroit rock, like MC5 or Sonic’s Rendevous Band. And the vocals reminded me a bit of early Black Sabbath. The next track, “Decapitated,” continued on this path as well.
Jam band? Maybe not.
By the third track, “Ugottalottagumption," things started to change. My first thought was that it’s a heavier Steeley Dan with a good amount of fuzzy guitar, and a splash of electronica. Later, “Sisyfaic,” slapped me with a bass groove slightly reminiscent of Stevie Wonder’s "Higher Ground,” which quickly gets buried beneath layers of guitar, drums and synth. "Blanca y Lobo,” another tune with Dave Drewitz and guest keyboardist, Tim McDonald, took a complete turn down a folky and slightly lo-fi road. And later, "Dizzo King” laid down some reggae beats, complete with the familiar “cuh-chunka-chunka” guitar groove.
So basically, while listening to Mourning Sicness, if there’s a particular track or a moment that you’re not completely digging, just give it a minute. Like the weather in Hampton Roads, it will change soon enough. That makes it a great disc to listen to when you aren't sure what you want to listen to, but you know what you don’t want to listen to. And, it would make the perfect gift for that friend who says, "I listen to everything."
Here’s the deal. Mourning Sicness has plenty of experimentation, fuzzy guitars and groovy vibes throughout, but it’s not groovy overkill. Like a musical time machine, it takes you back to the late 60’s/early 70’s heavier rock era, blazes into some funk, then rounds the corner to present day lo-fi and electronica. And it does all of this—often within the same song, as well as on individual tracks.
If I had to describe SICMaN and their material, and believe me it’s a tall order, I would say, multifaceted rock with experimental and jam band tendencies. Yeah, I can dig it.
The official CD release party for Mourning Sicness will be held at Belmont House of Smoke this Saturday, May 30, at 10 PM. You can download it now on iTunes, and Amazon. It’s also available at Birdland Records, in Virginia Beach.